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UN chief and senior officials show solidarity with DR Congo during three-day visit

Mr. Guterres arrived in the town of Goma, situated in the North Kivu region of the country which is at the centre of the epidemic, on Saturday. There, he was received by Leila Zerrougui, his special representative in the country, and inspected a contingent of UN peacekeepers. The UN chief thanked them for their service and sacrifice, and for putting their lives at risk, in often dangerous conditions, to protect civilians.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, who described the high-level visit as an opportunity to reiterate support for efforts towards peace and stability in the country, joined Mr. Guterres on the trip. He declared that the entire United Nations system, including the UN Mission in DRC, MONUSCO, is fully committed to ending the Ebola epidemic.

Civilians in DRC are also dealing with the deadly effects of other diseases, such as measles and malaria, which both claim more victims than Ebola, reminded Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). Mr. Tedros, part of the official UN delegation, said that this is why investments in a health system based on primary health care are so important, to address all health needs in a comprehensive way.

Speaking in French to local media on Saturday, Mr. Guterres expressed his admiration for the resilience of the citizens of DR Congo, and underlined the solidarity of the United Nations in the fight against terrorism, not only in Congo, but across the whole continent of Africa, and the entire world.

UN/Matine Perret
Secretary-General António Guterres briefing by MONUSCO leadership with SRSG Leila Zerrougui (Right) and USG Jean-Pierre Lacroix (left) and leadership

Turning to the “terrible situation” of Ebola, and other major health concerns such as measles, malaria, and cholera, the UN chief promised that the UN stands “side-by-side with the Congolese authorities and the people of the country, in order to do our best to meet all of these challenges.”

During his visit, his first since taking up office as the head of the UN in January 2017, Mr. Guterres will meet senior government officials, actors in the DRC peace process, and the civilian, police and military members of the UN Mission in the country.

Other senior UN officials joining the Secretary-General include the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, Michel Kafondo; Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa; Mike Ryan, Executive-Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme; and Ibrahima Socé Fall, WHO Assistant Director-General of Emergency Response.
 

As Yemen relief operations face funding gap, timing of surge in violence ‘couldn't be worse’

“Families are again trapped in their homes by fighting, unable to secure food and reach medical care,” Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said on Thursday, referring to Aden and Abyan.

Moreover, some streets in Aden are empty and flights to and from the airport have been temporarily suspended.

“We mourn for the dead and wounded and plead with everyone who is fighting to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law,” she said, lamenting that “the timing couldn’t be worse.”

Ms. Grandi elaborated that the country’s humanitarian operation “is in deep trouble” because pledges made at an international conference this past February “haven’t materialized”.

“We’ve already been forced to close vaccination and health programmes and scale-back on protection services for the victims of sexual and gender-based violence”, she detailed.

“If donors don’t honour the promises they’ve made, 22 major programmes will close in coming weeks”.

It has long been said that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

And today, nearly 80 per cent of the total population of 24.1 million people, requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 10 million people are a step away from famine and seven million are malnourished.

The 2019 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) requires $4.2 billion to assist more than 20 million Yemenis, including 10 million people who rely entirely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs every month.

Currently the YHRP is 34 per cent funded.

At a High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, convened by the UN Secretary-General in February, the UN and humanitarian partners were promised $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs. To date, less than half that has been received.

Friday's Daily Brief: Refugee children missing out on school, Ebola in Uganda, Fresh violence in Yemen, 20 years of Timor-Leste independence, Enforced disappearances

More than half of world’s refugee children ‘do not get an education’, warns UNHCR

Millions of refugee children are missing out on an education, the UN said on Friday, in an appeal to host countries to prevent them from “languishing” in camps for years where they lose hope.

According to a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) report, out of 7.1 million refugee youngsters of school age, more than half don’t attend lessons.

The problem gets worse as they get older, with six in 10 refugee children attending primary school and only two in 10 benefiting from secondary education.

Here’s our full coverage.

WHO confirms new Ebola case in Uganda

As the number of Ebola virus epidemic infections continues to climb in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a new case of the disease has been identified in neighbouring Uganda, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

In June, two people died from Ebola in Uganda after they had crossed the border from eastern DRC. A third individual from the same family died after he was sent back to DRC.

Speaking in Geneva, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib confirmed that the individual, a child, had been stopped in a routine border check at Mpondwe in western Uganda, reportedly on Wednesday.

“This girl is aged nine years old…she’s a Congolese girl, so she’s from DRC. She was tested positive for Ebola in Uganda and she came to seek help from DRC to seek medical care on a motorbike.”

As Yemen relief operations face funding gap, timing of surge in violence ‘couldn’t be worse’

The situation in Yemen is “very fragile”, the top United Nations humanitarian official there has warned, noting that as many as 13 people have been killed and at least 70 wounded over the past three days during clashes in two governorates.

“Families are again trapped in their homes by fighting, unable to secure food and reach medical care,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said on Thursday, referring to Aden and Abyan.

Read the full story here.

Guterres hails Timor-Leste on the 20th anniversary of 1999 ‘independence’ poll

On Friday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres hailed Timor-Leste on the 20th anniversary of 1999 ‘independence’ poll.

Twenty years since a people’s vote put Timor-Leste “firmly on the path of independence”, Mr. Guterres extended his congratulations to the country for its “tremendous achievements”.

In a statement issued by his Office to coincide with the anniversary, the Secretary-General cheered the fact that the country has held four peaceful elections, built new institutions, grown the economy and laid the “foundations for reconciliation, democracy and stability”.

Timor-Leste’s independence from Indonesia was recognized in 2002 and overseen by UN peacekeepers, to prevent further bloodshed amid clashes between opponents of the popular vote.

Enforced disappearances a ‘grave violation of human rights’

On Friday, the world marked the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, as it recognized that this has been frequently used as a strategy to spread terror. 

“Enforced disappearance can be misperceived as an issue of the past, but many cases remain unresolved and new ones continue to arise”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the day.  

Uncertainty as to the whereabouts and fate of a friend, family member or loved one causes great psychological distress.

Noting that these disappearances “have a profound impact on the lives of those searching for the victims”, the UN chief maintained “we must end this suffering”.

The Committee and the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances – the UN’s key mechanisms to address this matter – receive new cases daily, “many in the context of the fight against organized crime and terrorism”. Pointed out Mr. Guterres.
 

Listen to or download our audio News in Brief for 28 August on Soundcloud:

 

Alarming number of Ebola deaths in DRC a ‘rallying cry’ to scale up treatment

“The news that the total number of deaths has now passed 2,000, out of more than 3,000 cases, should act as a rallying cry for us all to step up our efforts to defeat this terrible disease and end this outbreak,” the Agency’s statement said.

“As the numbers continue to grow, it is vital to remember that each one of these cases is somebody’s child, a son or daughter; a mother, father brother or sister,” the announcement read. “Each of these deaths leaves a family not only in mourning but also scared and worried about their own exposure to the disease.”

UNICEF noted recent breakthroughs in finding successful treatments highlight that “for the first time, we now have the means to both prevent and treat Ebola.” Recent media reports show the disease is no longer incurable, with scientific advancements promising to tame outbreaks and boost survival rates.

Medical advances however, “mean little” if infection goes undetected, or “if individuals are too scared to seek treatment.”

The DRC’s northeast region has seen several attacks on Ebola treatment centres by armed groups, and in some cases, strikes specifically targeting people working to counter the virus. A deadly environment with added social and political crises could reverse progress made in treatment and prevention.

This Ebola epidemic, categorized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as International Public Health Emergency in July, has affected more children than in any other previous outbreak, and the virus “ravages children in ways that are very different from adults,” UNICEF said.

As such, treatments for young persons are specialized. “UNICEF is working with partners to meet children’s immediate and longer-terms needs, accompanying them and their families every step of the way,” the Agency said.

These efforts include risk communication and engagement, infection prevention and control, psychosocial support, deployments of child nutritionists and building protective school environments.

Ebola outbreaks are unique in the “exceptional level of investment” needed to combat them, UNICEF explained. “They require 100 per cent of cases to be treated, and 100 per cent of contacts to be traced and managed.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres will travel to impacted areas on Saturday in an expression of solidarity with victims and families fighting the epidemic.

Of the 126 million dollars needed meet the needs of children and communities, UNICEF has so far funded 31 per cent of its appeal.

“The reality is that we need far more international support now.”

WHO confirms new Ebola case in Uganda

As the number of infected continue to climb in the DR Congo, a new case of the disease was identified in nieghbouring Uganda, WHO revealed on Friday. The child, a nine-year-old Congolese girl, tested positive in Uganda and traveled to the DRC for treatment.

Briefing journalists in Geneva, WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib confirmed the child, had been stopped in a routine border check at Mpondwe in western Uganda, reportedly on Wednesday. 

Amid reports that she had died, the WHO spokesperson explained that the girl was clearly extremely poorly when health officers stopped her.  

In June, two other individuals died from Ebola in Uganda after crossing the border from DRC. A third individual from the same family died after being he was sent back to DRC. 

Asked about the dangers of transmission within Uganda, Ms. Chaib emphasized that Ugandan officials had acted quickly to limit the risks of the disease spreading and had the expertise to minimize contact with the infected patient. 

According to WHO’s 27 August update on the latest Ebola outbreak in DRC, which was declared on 1 August 2018, “there have been …almost 3,000 cases of Ebola with 1,998 deaths and 893 survivors,” Ms. Chaib said. “Most of the cases are in Nord Kivu province.” 

Ebola virus disease: WHO

 

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness affecting humans and other primates.

The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals (such as fruit bats, porcupines and non-human primates) and then spreads in the human population through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.

The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. There were more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It also spread between countries, starting in Guinea then moving across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.

It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts.

 

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is from 2 to 21 days. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they develop symptoms.

Symptoms of EVD can be sudden and include: fever, fatigue, muscle, pain, headache, and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

It can be difficult to clinically distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis. A range of diagnostic tests have been developed to confirm the presence of the virus.

 

There is no proven treatment for Ebola but simple interventions early on can significantly improve chances of survival. This includes rehydration with fluids and body salts (given orally or intravenously), and treatment of specific symptoms such as low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea and infections.

A range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated.

Hand hygiene is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

An experimental Ebola vaccine known as rVSV-ZEBOV proved highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea in 2015. It is being used in response to the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo using a ring vaccination protocol.

During an outbreak, health partners apply a package of interventions including case management, surveillance, contact tracing, laboratory testing, safe burials and community engagement.

Working with communities to reduce risk factors for Ebola transmission is critical to controlling outbreaks.

Activist Greta Thunberg gets preview of UNHQ ahead of climate summit

The 16-year-old and two other teens got a preview of the UN General Assembly Hall, where all 193 of the entity’s Member States gather every year to discuss a wide array of international issues, and where Ms. Thunberg is scheduled to speak during the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit next month.

The Swedish youth activist was greeted by General Assembly President, María Fernanda Espinosa, who tweeted: 

Welcome, Greta Thunberg and climate activists to the UN in New York. Your determination for climate action  has shaken the world and we join you in holding leaders accountable. “Science, not Silence” #ClimateActionNow.

She also received praise from UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a Twitter message:

“I’m far from New York, but I’m happy to know that young people came to the UN once again to express their commitment in the fight against climate change. I encourage them to keep pushing for stronger #ClimateAction.”

Ms. Thunberg, who sailed from Europe to curb carbon emissions from air travel, will attend UN climate summits in New York in September, and in Santiago, Chile, in December.

Her 60-foot Malizia II racing yacht, equiped with solar panels and underwater turbines for electric power, docked in New York City on Wednesday, where she was welcomed by a flotilla of  17 sailboats, each representing one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The young environmental advocate has gained media attention since waging a “school strike” for climate action last August.

At just 15, she stood alone outside of Swedish Parliament in demostration, calling for drastic change. Since, other impassioned youth have followed her lead and skipped school for the cause.

“I would love not to have to do this and just go to school,” Ms. Thunberg told journalists upon arriving onto dry land, “but…I want to make a difference.”

More than half of world’s refugee children ‘do not get an education’, warns UNHCR

According to the new UN refugee agency (UNHCR) report,  Stepping Up, of 7.1 million refugee youngsters of school age, more than half do not attend lessons.

The barriers that prevent them from accessing learning become harder to overcome as they get older, the report shows.

Only six in 10 refugee children attend primary school – compared to nine in 10 globally – and only around two in 10 refugees get a secondary education, compared to the world average of more than eight in 10.

The trend is even clearer in higher education, where only three in every 100 refugee children are able to pursue their learning, compared with the world average of 37 in 100.

‘Sad and dumb’ policy ignores refugees’ potential

“It’s not just sad, but it’s also dumb,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the agency’s High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, told journalists in Geneva. “Not investing in refugees, people who have fled war zones …is not investing very simply in the future of its people; the people have to be the future teachers, architects, the peacemakers, artists, politicians who are interested in reconciliation, not revenge.”

According to the UNCHR report, the problem mainly affects poorer countries which offer shelter to families fleeing conflict and natural disasters, despite frequently lacking sufficient resources themselves.

In wealthy regions such as Europe, most countries have placed refugee children into mainstream education, Ms. Fleming explained, with the exception of Greece and a handful of Balkan States, “where refugees are in limbo and still seeking asylum”.

In Greece, ‘thousands and thousands…languishing dangerously’

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi meets with Rohingya refugee children at a mental health programme in Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. (April 2019) © UNHCR/Will Swanson

Highlighting the critical situation for refugees and migrants in Greece, the UNHCR official warned that there continue to be “thousands and thousands of asylum seekers, many of them children, many unaccompanied minors who, given the lack of capacity of the Greek State, are not able to access education and are really languishing dangerously in many parts of the country, particularly on the islands.”

Stateless children are another of the agency’s biggest concerns, Ms. Fleming continued, noting that their lack of identification documents means that they are often refused access to school.

Asked about the hundreds of thousands of displaced Rohingya people who fled Myanmar amid a military operation in 2017, she highlighted that many children – and particularly those over 14 – have struggled to get an education in Bangladesh camps, amid a lack of resources.

Turkey praised for ‘exemplary’ approach to refugee youngsters

On a more positive note, the UNHCR official welcomed the “exemplary” approach of Turkey, which has helped refugees to learn the national language so that they can go to school more easily.

Mexico has also supported a UNHCR programme that has helped refugees to move to the north of the country, she said, where 100 per cent of refugee children have enrolled in school.

In Africa, meanwhile, the agency is working with more than 20 countries to expand education opportunities for refugees, while States including Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti have also made changes to their education policy to allowing refugees access to secondary and tertiary learning.

And on Latin America, Ms. Fleming welcomed Peru and Colombia’s open-arms education policy for Venezuelan refugee children who arrive without identification papers.

Citing a lack of funding as the primary cause of refugee enrollment in secondary school, UNHCR is appealing to Governments, the private sector, educational organizations and donors to provide investment to change the traditional approach to refugee education.

With sufficient funding, UNHCR’s “secondary school initiative” aims to focus on building or refurbishing schools, as well as teacher training.

In addition, refugee families will receive support so that they can cover the expenses of sending their children to school, often outside the camps or communities where they have found shelter.

An important part of the UNHCR appeal is for more refugees to be included in national education systems, instead of being “corralled” into unofficial learning centres.

“Where you have a country that has a decent national school system, all we’re asking is, please allow the refugees to attend,” Ms. Fleming said. “This does not happen everywhere. What we often have are host countries of countries taking in thousands and thousands of refugees but basically sequestering them and expecting the international community to take care of them in all ways, hoping that the war will end and they will go home quickly. But the reality is…that the average time that refugees stay in exile is 17 years.”

If refugee youngsters are allowed access to educate the local system, “they’ll learn the language (and) the potential that they will return home and rebuild their country is much bigger,” she insisted.

‘Ground Zero’: Report from the former Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan

Moscow-400Semipalatinsk-21End of the LineKurchatov City. All these are the names for a top-secret city built on the banks of the Irtysh River in the north-east of Kazakhstan after the Second World War. Living there were Soviet scientists and members of the military whose job it was to conduct nuclear tests.  

To get inside Kurchatov City, which in the late 1940’s was surrounded by checkpoints, friends and family members of the city’s inhabitants would wait for months for permission. Getting outside the city, named after Soviet nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov, wasn’t so easy either.   

Yet, the town was stocked with the best food supplies. High-quality merchandise was delivered there, and all the best conditions were created for the work and leisure pursuits of 50,000 people that lived here.  

Over 40 years, 456 nuclear devices were exploded on the territory, which stretches some 18.5 thousand square meters, and the first “mushroom cloud” rose over the test site near Semipalatinsk exactly 70 years ago, on August 29, 1949.  

 Inside the ‘testing ground,’ residents can recall ‘beautiful’ mushroom clouds 

UN News/Nargiz Shekinskaya
Amir Kairanov was born and grew up near the testing site of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan and now works at the National Nuclear Center..

 

It takes about two hours to get from Semey, which what Semipalatinsk has been called since 2007, to Kurchatov City, and it takes another hour by a cross-country road to get from there to ‘ground zero’.  In the Soviet era, a concrete road was constructed here for delivery of heavy loads, but it fell into disrepair and was never rebuilt. 

Today, the “testing ground” is an immense, flat steppe overgrown with dry grass. Grim, triangular structures that were once topped with sensors, dot the territory, as a reminder of its past.  

Yet, 70 years ago, everything here looked different: to study the effects of the nuclear explosions, the Soviet military built streets, erected bridges and even excavated a subway in the area. Animals used for testing were brought into the “impact zone.”

The locals readily share their memories: some describe the “horrible mushroom” in a shaky voice, while the others say that it was “even beautiful”. Before each test, the military would go to the nearby villages and ask the inhabitants to go outside during the blast. 

“My grandfather remembers how they exploded a hydrogen bomb in 1955, how he felt the blast wave and saw the light flash,” Amir Kayranov, told UN News. He is a young employee of the National Nuclear Center that was opened in Kurchatov City after the tests ceased. 

Lasting health impacts 

UN News/Nargiz Shekinskaya
Amir Kairanov was born and grew up near the testing site of Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan and now works at the National Nuclear Center..

 

At the time, not many people realized the dangers nuclear blasts posed. Even though Kazakh scientists have been conducting territory decontamination for almost 30 years, radiation levels here are still elevated, and children in the area continue to be born with genetic mutations – a local medical university has even amassed a horrific collection of infants with abnormalities.  

Nevertheless, no one says these problems are directly connected to the test site. Science likes precision, and the scientists don’t have numbers at their disposal. And that’s not just about the mutations. 

“In the Semipalatinsk of Soviet era, one would hear about suicides all the time; people would take their own lives – by hanging themselves or jumping from a bridge, said Nurzhan Esenjolov, an employee of the Semey City Hall.  

“There is no evidence that would prove a direct connection between those incidents and the nearby nuclear tests, but people in the villages got used to suicides that occurred quite often at the time,” he explained. 

Tolkyn Bulegenov, Vice-President of the Semey Medical University, would only confirm an increase in contemporary oncology indices.  

“In the zones adjacent to the test site, one can encounter malignant growths of the thyroid and blood malignancies – hematological blastoma, leukosis, lymphoma and chronic leukemia – 10 to 15 per cent more often than in other regions of Kazakhstan,” the medical professional told UN News. 

According to Mr. Bulegenov, it is precisely these diseases that are connected to the prolonged exposure to radiation, and all the cases nowadays are meticulously tracked. 

However, the information about health of the people who were exposed to direct radiation in the very years of tests at Semipalatinsk Test Site is under lock and key.  

Mr. Bulegenov says that in the 1960s, a medical dispatch was organized but “the results of the study remain classified up until today.” The official estimate is that, over 40 years, there were approximately one million people in the zone of radiation impact. 

Closing Semipalatinsk, ‘re-cultivating’ land 

UN News/Nargiz Shekinskaya
In Kurchatov, Kazakhstan, the National Nuclear Center was created, where research and land reclamation are conducted.

 

When the test site was closed, Kazakhstan was faced with the question of how to decontaminate the land and what to do with the military-industrial complex that remained on the territory of Semipalatinsk Test Site.   

In order to solve this and other problems, the National Nuclear Center was founded in Kurchatov City. Employees of the Center conduct research and carried out ‘re-cultivation’, which requires the land to be plowed in such a way that the contaminated topsoil ends up on the bottom, and the uncontaminated soil rises to the surface.  

Combatting the nuclear proliferation is the number one priority for Kazakhstan, which felt first-hand the impact of nuclear tests and voluntarily gave up its nuclear capacity. This country was one of the first CIS republics to join the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  

Kazakhstan also came forward with a proposal to create the International Day against Nuclear Tests be observed in order to promote the dissemination of information about consequences of such tests. August 29 is not only the date of the first test at Semipalatinsk; on this date in 1991 President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the decree about closing the test site, also known as the Polygon.     

Decades of progress ‘can be wiped out overnight,’ UN chief laments at climate session in Yokohama

“Decades of sustainable development gains can be wiped out overnight,” he lamented in Yokohama, citing the deadly cyclone streak in Mozambique earlier this year, floods that plagued Japan just days ago, and the wildfires presently ripping through the Amazon.

With July recorded as the hottest month ever, “We are on track for 2015-2019 to be the five hottest years since there are records. At the same time, the World Meteorological Organization has also shown that we have now the largest concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere of human history,” the UN chief told reporters.

As far as bearing the brunt, “The poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer,” he said, noting Africa is on the frontline of suffering consequences, yet contributes minimally to global warming.

“Our overarching goal is to raise ambition and get the world on track to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius”– UN Secretary-General

“Africa has the moral authority on this,” he urged, and holds the right to ask top CO2 emitters like China, the United States and India, according the UN Environment Programme’s latest numbers,  to scale back on their emissions and comply with the scientific community’s recommendations for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050.

“Our overarching goal is to raise ambition and get the world on track to limit global temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he said, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found this target is only manageable by way of “rapid and far-reaching transitions.”

Mr. Guterres said with respect to the ongoing Amazon fires, the UN has taken steps to prioritize its resolve.

“We have been in contact with the countries to see whether, during the high-level session of the General Assembly, that would be a meeting devoted to the mobilization of support to the Amazon.”

On 23 September the UN chief will host a Climate Action Summit in New York, with proposals already put forward to protect the poor and vulnerable including boosts to disaster recovery and preparatory measures.

Limiting crises wrought by climate change requires we “not only respond more efficiently to disaster after it happens, but through advanced warning and preparation, we must work to prevent disaster from happening in the first place,” the Secretary-General said.

Thursday’s Daily Brief: UN refugee agency on Venezuelan migrant crisis, dramatic resurgence' of measles in Europe, a UN News visit to former nuclear test site, Colombian law for disabled persons receives praise, Security Council on violence in Yemen

Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

There is “no end in sight” to the massive movement of Venezuelan migrants and refugees, now at around 4.3 million in number, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) shared on Thursday.

The inflow of migrants to neighboring Latin American countries and the Caribbean is exacerbating social and economic tensions in the effort to protect the increasing number of people with vulnerabilities and those in need of international protection, the agency’s Joint UNHCR-IOM (International Organization for Migration) Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, Eduardo Stein, said in a statement.

Mr. Stein stressed the need for a “coherent, predictable and harmonized regional response,” to ensure “countries in the region will be able to meet the unprecented humanitarian challenge of responding to the needs of a gorwing number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.”

Get the full story here.

‘Dramatic resurgence’ of measles threatens the European region

The number of countries having achieved or sustained elimination of measles has declined, the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination (RVC) warned today.

RVC reports that as of the end of last year, 35 countries have achieved or sustained measles elimination, compared to 37 for 2017, and twelve remain endemic for measles.

“Through activation of the emergency response, WHO has increased its focus on measles elimination and upgraded its action,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, adding that “this is the time and opportunity to address any underlying health system, social determinants and societal challenges that may have allowed this deadly virus to persist in this Region.”  

Get our full coverage here.

Report from the former nuclear test site in Kazakhstan

Every year on 29 August, the UN and Member States recognize the International Day against Nuclear Tests. This year, the Day coincides with the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bomb test at the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan.

UN News travelled to the remote region for a look inside Kurchatov City, where for over 40 years, the area served as a venue for 456 nuclear explosions.  Today, the “testing ground” is buried by overgrown grass, some locals remember the “horrible mushroom” cloud, some describe it as “even beautiful.”

Meanwhile, scientists and medical professionals continue to investigate whether the elevated rations levels can explain the number of children born with genetic mutations, and other cases of health impediments.

Read our full story here.

UN expert praises Colombian law guaranteeing rights for disabled persons

Colombia’s new law guaranteeing the exercise of legal capacity by persons with disabilities signals “a huge step” in the realm of human rights, Catalina Devandas, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, declared  in a statement.

Ms. Devandas said, “the newly adopted law eliminates all forms of guardianship in Colombia, while also establishing support mechanisms to fully enjoy this fundamental right.”

The initiative joins similar reform processes underway in Peru and Costa Rica, positioning Latin American countries as global leaders in implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

Security Council President concerned over violent eruptions in Yemen

The Security Council today called on all parties to the conflict in south Yemen to show restraint, expressing concern over recent spasms of violence in the country.

In a presidential statement issued by the Council’s President for August, Joanna Wronecka (Poland), the body welcomed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to convene a constructive dialogue in the port city of Jeddah.

The Council expressed full support of negotiation efforts, security and political arrangements necessary to resume a peaceful transition.

 

 

Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

The inflow of migrants to neighboring Latin American countries and the Caribbean is exacerbating social and economic tensions in the effort to protect the increasing number of people with vulnerabilities and those in need of international protection, the agency’s Joint UNHCR-IOM (International Organization for Migration) Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, Eduardo Stein, said in a statement.

Despite dwindling resources and overwhelmed institutions, host countries, “continue to make commendable efforts to give protection and assistance and to promote the social and economic inclusion of Venezuelans in their territory,” Mr. Stein said.

“However, there is little doubt that the situation of Venezuelan refugees and migrants is surpassing the capacities of individual counties and of the region as a whole.”

Mr. Stein expressed he is “concerned that the limits on Venezuelans in accessing the territory of receiving countries may force them into making irregular journeys, leading to trafficking and smuggling, are exacerbating their vulnerabilities.”

The perils migrants face trying to reach new territory have gained international attention after grim stories have surfaced such as the June tragedy in Mexico’s Rio Grande, and the 30 Venezuelan migrants who vanished in an April boat accident.  

“I respectfully exhort countries in the region to continue to articulate, coordinate and harmonize their policies,” Mr. Stein said, encouraging countries participating in the Quito Process, a road map intended to help integrate Venezuelan migrants into their host countries, to continue to seek responsibility-sharing in the support for people on the move.

Mr. Stein also stressed the need for a collective response, saying: “It is only through a coherent, predictable and harmonized regional response that countries in the region will be able to meet the unprecedented humanitarian challenge of responding to the needs of a growing number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants.”

 

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